A Babalawo is a sage or high priest, who is well versed in the rituals, the lore and the history of the Yoruba Tradition/ Religion called IFA. He has become a master in the Cabalistic and ritualistic aspects of IFA. Babalawo (Baba-ni-Awo) means "Father in the knowledge of things material and spiritual."
The Cabalistic mastery makes the Babalawo a craftsman who has acquired the fine skills of the preparation of medications (curative, calming, preventive), some of which can be explained in western scientific terms. He also utilizes the power of invocation and evocation of spiritual forces to effect the expression of phenomena. He is therefore a redeemer from the Ajogun (evil forces of the material and spiritual systems).
In many IFA verses, the client is full of praise for his and her Babalawo after the feat has been performed. The Babalawo in turn then praises IFA who then in turn sings the praises of Olodumare (the Almighty).
In order to become a Babalawo, one needs to get initiated in to IFA and one needs to study with elders in order to get well versed in IFA.
The first step is to receive the Hand of IFA which will help you connect to the Ase (power) of Orunmila (Deity of Wisdom)/ IFA.
The second step is to go through Igboodu (the sacred Grove) which is the initiation into IFA. Here one receives the Ase from IFA, and also one is being guided how to work IFA for oneself, ones family and the community.
A good Babalawo is a servant of Orunmila who helps and assist clients in attaining their Highest Destiny. He is a well respected leader who is in touch with the material and spiritual. He is never in conflict with any other tradition or religions - indeed; his help is sought in many ways as his influence extends into all phases of life. He lives for one purose only, to discover the will of Orunmila.
Moreover, he himself lives in accordance with the beliefs of IFA and his manifest reverence and meticulous observance of its ritual constitute one of the strongest arguments against the charge of general dishonesty.